I remember the first time I wrecked a car. It was the one and only time I've ever laughed about the ridiculousness of the situation.
My friend Liz and I were home for Christmas from college. It was about midnight and we were driving around in my parents' Honda Accord, looking for something to do, looking at Christmas lights and listening to the Old 97's.
As we drove by our old high school, I remarked how pretty the Christmas lights looked draped over and around Touchdown Jesus (I went to a Catholic high school in Dallas). As Jesus beckoned us to quietly wax nostalgic on our years of plaid skirts, nuns and questionable hygiene (Fact: girl's schools are amongst the hygienically laziest places on earth, and it's AWESOME!), I drove my parents' car into a lamppost.
A big, bright, stationary lamppost. Touchdown Jesus, how many more cars must perish from your siren's call?
We hit the lamppost head on. I don't remember actually running into it, but after we were stopped, the hood of the car crunched into the post, I lifted my head, looked at Liz and the two of us proceeded to howl with laughter. The fact that Jesus was responsible, and the fact that I HAD DRIVEN INTO A NON-MOVING LAMPPOST, made us laugh uncontrollably, well after the patrolling officer asked us if were drunk/high/insane.
My parents, though pissed, were remarkably kind, and aside from a dent in my wallet, it was a remarkably painless incident. "So, this is wrecking a car?" I remember thinking, "No problem."
And that is the day I cursed myself.
Ever since the Touchdown Jesus Incident, I've had horrible luck with cars. I crash into people's cars, they crash into mine, the garage that is FIXING my car crashes, and almost totals my car. And never again have I laughed about the situation. You see, I tend to be bullied.
Now let me just say, that I am typically not one to back down. Though I do not relish conflict, I am not afraid of it when it is necessary. If you kick your dog, I have no problem getting all crazy-Asian lady on your ass and calling the O'ahu SPCA.
But I'm so unclear about the rules with cars -- insurance, claims, laws, speed limits, registration, VIN numbers, tire pressure -- that you could run over my little two-door car with your Monster Truck and then tell me it was my fault, and I would probably believe you and apologize for the inconvenience.
Not really, but pretty close. I lose all confidence when it comes to car accidents.
A guy once drove his car into the side of mine, fully his fault, and when we stopped to exchange information, he blustered and hollered so much that by the time we parted ways, he'd convinced me that the whole thing was my fault because my registration was going to expire at the end of the month.
When I drove my crippled car home, teary-eyed and guilty, it took my roommate getting all male and dude-like to convince me that I had been had.
I bring all this up because I was recently in another car accident. I was on the freeway, coming home from a friend's place, when traffic suddenly slowed and I slammed on my breaks. The red Jeep that had been riding my ass for the past few miles crashed into the back of my car.
That crumpling sound of plastic and metal is one of my top three most hated noises in the world.
We pulled over to the shoulder of the freeway, and the whole time I was hearing my mother's voice in my head saying, "If you get out of your car on the side of the freeway, someone will hit you and kill you." I sat in my car for a moment gathering my thoughts, willing myself not to cry.
Against my better judgment, I got out of my car and walked over to inspect the damage. Fuck. My bumper was bent into the shape of a "V" and my trunk was crumpled and gapping on the sides.
The driver of the other car came swaggering over and as he began talking at me, I realized he wasn't local. He sounded German? He started yammering on and on about how he needs to see my driver's license, my insurance, "You stopped so fast! Why?!", how this is his brother's car, how it would be better FOR HIM if I just called his brother's auto-body shop instead of making a claim with my insurance, how he needs to take pictures of my car, and on and on.
I complied, letting him take down all my information (did he just laugh at my driver's license picture?), and I caught myself APOLOGIZING TO HIM.
WHAT THE FUCK LOUISE? STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT! HE RAN INTO YOU!
I took a deep breath and asked for his insurance and driver's license. He grumbled around in his car, speaking in German to his bros, and reappeared with a damp, crumpled piece of paper. It was his insurance information, and it was expired. Regardless, I took a picture of the paper with my phone, as well as his suspicious driver's license.
As we parted ways, I quietly said THANK YOU TO HIM (aaaaaaaaaaaah!!!!!!) and he yelled after me to not call my insurance company. Yeah, sure, buddy.
I drove my banged-up little car home and immediately called my insurance company. It's all being taken care of by the grown-ups now, but I can't help but feel so gross about how I handled the situation.
I did what I was supposed to do, but I hated that I was so meek and APOLOGETIC to those douche-monkeys. Why do I get this way?
I think a big part of it is that I'm always a little afraid that people will find out that I'm only posing as an adult, that I don't actually know what I'm doing. Which is ridiculous. I pay my own bills with my own money, I have a career, a job and a place to live. I arrange plane tickets, for crap's sake!
But there are times when the other grown-ups are talking about taxes and 401Ks (still aren't quite sure what the hell those are) and paperwork stuff, that I sort of nod and repeat the last thing the smartest person just said. Registering my car in Hawai'i is up there as one of the most anxiety inducing ordeals I've been through in recent memory. VIN number, registration number, license plate number -- how can one car have so many numbers attached to it?
After this last accident, I'm acutely aware of the fact that I've probably been screwed over by other drivers more often than not. I'd like to say the pattern stops here, but I'm not sure I believe it.
I know a lot of people, mostly women, who this happens to in one form or another. I hate to even suggest it, as it's a kind of sexist and yucky question, but is this a problem mostly exclusive to women? Backing down when it comes to cars?
Does this happen to you? How do you deal with car wrecks and the like? How do you stay in control of the situation?